E. coli Lawsuit filed against Excel Corporation on behalf of injured child


SEATTLE - Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm nationally-known for its successful representation of persons injured in food-borne illness outbreaks, and the well-respected Atlanta law firm, Johnson & Ward, have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alexander White, a Gwinnett County child who became seriously ill after eating a hamburger patty contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Alexander spent four days in the hospital, including Christmas day, as a result of his E. coli O157:H7 infection.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, names the Excel Corporation as the sole defendant, and alleges that the hamburger patty that sickened Alexander White was manufactured by Excel Specialty Products, a division of the Excel Corporation located in Wichita, Kansas. “This is not the first time we have been forced to file a lawsuit against the Excel Corporation,” noted Denis Stearns, one of the attorneys representing the White family in its lawsuit. He added, “We have unfortunately been down this road before.”

Alexander’s parents purchased the patties on December 17, 2000, at the Sam’s Club in Duluth, Georgia, where the patties are sold under the trade name “American Chef’s Selection.” Because Alexander was the only person in the family to eat one of the patties, and the only one to become ill, officials with the Gwinnett County Health Department quickly suspected that the patties were contaminated. Microbiological tests on the patties were performed by Georgia’s Public Health Laboratory in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The lab isolated E. coli O157:H7 from the patties, and determined that it was an exact genetic match with the E. coli O157:H7 that had been isolated from Alexander’s stool culture while he was in the hospital.

This is not the first instance in which meat products manufactured by a division of the Excel Corporation have been found to be contaminated with pathogens. A month ago, Excel issued a voluntary recall of 190,811 pounds of ground beef and ground pork it manufactured at a Newnan-based meat packaging plant and then supplied to Kroger supermarkets in southeast Georgia. According to a Washington Post-Dateline NBC Report, an Excel plant located in Fort Morgan, Colorado, was cited 26 times from September 1999 to July 2000 for fecal contamination of meat. Finally, according to a June 26, 2001 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Excel’s parent company, Cargill, recalled 16.7 million pounds of cooked, ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products in December to safeguard against potentially fatal Listeria contamination.”

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Background: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of food-borne illness. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. Marler Clark has litigated on behalf of children against KFC, Odwalla, McDonalds, Hardees, Subway, Carl’s Jr., and Wendy’s. Marler Clark presently represents 14 people in the litigation arising from the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that occurred in July 2000, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, involving two Sizzler restaurants.

For additional information on E. coli, visit the Marler Clark-sponsored Web site about E. coli O157:H7.

More about the Excel E. coli outbreak in Georgia can be found in the Case News area of this site.